Comment: Don’t bite the hand that feeds

Begrudging OTAs for being good at what they do makes no sense, argues Christoph Klenner of ETTSA and Stephen Shur of The Travel Technology Association in the US

A recent op-ed on Travel Weekly Europe attacking online travel agencies (OTAs), by David Weston, chairman of the UK Bed & Breakfast Association, is peculiar coming from an industry that is a direct beneficiary of the existence of OTAs.

To start with, by partnering with OTAs, the B&Bs that Mr Weston represents benefit greatly from increased exposure on a global scale without the costs these small businesses would ordinarily incur if they had to advertise on their own.

OTAs are a very cost-efficient and risk-free channel that allows smaller properties to compete with big chains for domestic and, especially, foreign guests.

It is safe to assume that a good part of Mr Weston’s own association members are actively working with online travel sites and generating additional business.
Begrudging OTAs for being good at what they do is no reason to run to the government urging unnecessary regulations.

Not only would the implementation of burdensome regulations on OTAs prove harmful to the traveling consumer, but it could also have a negative impact on B&Bs and the benefits the travel industry provides for local economies.

OTAs created and maintain the online marketplace for accommodations. Without these platforms, consumers would have to visit dozens or even hundreds of websites and waste valuable time making an informed booking decision.

In that scenario, it is highly unlikely that those consumers would stumble upon Mr Weston’s members.

Consumers rely on the convenience of shopping across multiple travel brands in a single place and statistics show they continue to trust online travel companies with their vacation and business travel itineraries.

Leisure and business travellers benefit greatly from the ability to search, compare, and book travel through the advanced technological solutions created and deployed by today’s innovative and popular online travel companies.

OTAs have created a vibrant marketplace where suppliers are forced to compete and consumers win.

As intermediaries, OTAs provide great benefit to both suppliers and consumers. They save consumers money and offer them more choice by creating an open, transparent marketplace where hotels, inns and B&Bs compete on location, price and amenities.

B&Bs benefit by showing up in search results alongside major hotel brands without having to spend thousands on advertising.

The reliability of independent booking sites is why hundreds of thousands of hotels, motels, inns and B&Bs around the world continue willingly and enthusiastically to partner with online travel companies.

Engagement with OTAs is voluntary. The benefits are clear and present.

They put heads in beds and help B&Bs market unsold inventory. They deliver customers through the front doors of hotels and B&Bs unlike any other channel in e-commerce in any other industry.

Complaining about their prowess and asking the government to investigate and regulate OTAs for being good at what they do is tantamount to damaging the partner that empowers you to compete better in the marketplace.

Christoph Klenner is secretary general of the European Technology & Travel Services Association (ETTSA). Stephen Shur is president of The Travel Technology Association


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